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Inside pitch

Torre wants Mussina to join Yankees' staff

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Posted: Monday November 20, 2000 7:32 PM

  Mike Mussina Mike Mussina acknowledges the crowd following his final start at Camden Yards on Sept. 30. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees manager Joe Torre sounds like a college coach trying to recruit Mike Mussina.

"I hope he's interested. We are, obviously," the New York manager said Monday at a news conference for the release of the World Series video.

Various Yankees have reached out to the right-hander, who turns 32 next month, trying to convince him that the New York area is a nice place to live. Many Yankees live in suburbs less than a 30-minute drive from Yankee Stadium in midafternoon.

"I just wanted him to know that New York is more than just Manhattan and traffic," Torre said. "New York isn't just a place with a lot of people."

Mussina has repeatedly rejected offers to return to Baltimore, the last for $72 million over six years, saying they were for less than he is worth. Orioles owner Peter Angelos said if the Yankees want Mussina and he wants them, Baltimore will lose its ace.

Boston and the New York Mets also are interested, and Atlanta, Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Texas may be, too. The large-market teams have worried he might not want to play for them because he was born in Williamsport, Pa., and lives in Montoursville, Pa.

"At this time, Mike is quite comfortable with playing with either of the New York teams," the pitcher's agent, Arn Tellem, said Monday. Mussina probably will make a decision in the two weeks following Thanksgiving.

"It's now completing the process of talking with teams, and Mike getting as much information as he can from the players and teams directly," Tellem said. "The last point is agreeing on economic terms with the team."

Mussina would join a rotation that will include Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and Andy Pettitte.

On a terrible Orioles team last season, Mussina was 11-15 with a 3.79 ERA, leaving his career record at 147-81.

Torre made clear the Yankees are interested in having David Cone return as their fifth starter -- if the price is right. Cone, 37, went 4-14 with a 6.91 ERA after agreeing to a $12 million, one-year contract, and New York would bring him back only under a deal for a small guarantee plus performance bonuses.

"I'm still convinced he can get people out," Torre said. "Before he dislocated his shoulder, I thought he was on his way back."

As for the bullpen, Torre said the Yankees are prepared to go on without right-handed setup man Jeff Nelson, who rejected a $9 million, three-year offer and became a free agent.

On other subjects, Torre said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre agreed to return for next season. Stottlemyre, diagnosed a year ago with multiple myeloma, left the team Sept. 11 to undergo a stem-cell transplant and missed the postseason.

Torre said he would wait until spring training approaches to decide if he intends to manage after the 2001 season, the final year of his contract.

Torre thinks second baseman Chuck Knoblauch will get his throwing problem straightened out during the offseason. Doctors have not detected anything wrong with the elbow, which caused pain and forced Knoblauch into a designated hitter role.

"If he stops thinking about this, it might improve," Torre said. "That's just my opinion. ... It was stressing him out."

Torre has been monitoring the situation of Darryl Strawberry, jailed in Tampa, Fla., for violating probation. The outfielder, who became a free agent, also is battling cancer and told a judge he had stopped his treatment.

"It's sad," Torre said. "We certainly haven't changed our feelings toward him as a person. It hits a nerve for all of us."

Related information
Remaining Free Agents's Free Agent Watch
Yanks meet with Mussina's agent
Roundup: Cubs trade with Oakland for Stairs
SI's Tom Verducci: Rodriguez didn't make demands
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